Jorge Santiago
Jorge Santiago
Jorge Santiago
Jorge Santiago
Jorge Santiago

I grew up in Guelatao de Juárez, a village of approximately 500 people in Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte. Guelatao is famous not only as the birthplace of Mexican president Benito Juárez, but also as the site of the annual Copa Benito Juárez, in which more than 200 teams of Indigenous Zapotec, Mixe, and Chinantec players compete over a period of three days.

Unlike in wider mestizo Mexico, where soccer reigns supreme, in the Sierra, basketball is king. The sport was introduced in the 1930s by president Lazaro Cardenas as a way to bring Oaxaca’s disparate and historically rebellious Indigenous groups into the national fold. Cardenas’ dream of a unified national identity didn’t take root in the Sierra — historically isolated and impoverished — but basketball soon became tied to the region’s most significant traditions, and to Indigenous identity itself.

Like many of my fellow villagers, I grew up idolizing the star players from my village and others. I saved up money for basketball shoes, and spent most of my spare time on the basketball court which, as one of the few flat spaces in hilly and terraced Serrano villages, served not only as a site of play but also as a public gathering space.

My documentary photography project explores the way in which basketball reinforces Indigenous identity. Basketball tournaments in Oaxaca are the central fixture of the annual village fiesta — the single most important event in a Serrano village. In the past, migrants would return from the United States for tournaments in their villages. Now, with changes in U.S. border policy, they simply send money for trophies, slaughtered bulls, fireworks, uniforms, shoes, and prizes. During the fiesta, the basketball court is the fulcrum of activity: bulls are slaughtered there, bands play in massive group concerts, dances are held, and the names of the migrants sponsoring the fiesta are read aloud.

Artist Bios

  • Jorge Santiago

    Born in Guelatao de Juarez, Oaxaca, Mexico, Jorge Santiago is a documentary photographer currently based in Pittsburgh. His work has been exhibited in Mexico City, Los Angeles, Madrid, Havana, and Bratislava. He has taught workshops in basic, pinhole, and darkroom photography, and he served as the darkroom manager for Mary Ellen Mark’s workshops in Oaxaca. He is a recipient of three fellowships from the Oaxaca State Fund for Culture and the Arts, and a Jovenes Creadores fellowship from the Mexican National Fund for Culture and the Arts. Santiago’s photographs have appeared in numerous publications including Harper’s Magazine, the New York Times Lens Blog, PDN Photo of the Day, Deadspin, Cuartoscuro, and the Neue Zurcher Zeitung. Santiago has traveled extensively in Mexico, the United States, and China, and is currently at work on a photo documentary about basketball in the Indigenous villages of Oaxaca’s Sierra Norte in Mexico.


  • Photoville


    Founded in 2011 in Brooklyn, NY, Photoville was built on the principles of addressing cultural equity and inclusion, which we are always striving for, by ensuring that the artists we exhibit are diverse in gender, class, and race.

    In pursuit of its mission, Photoville produces an annual, city-wide open air photography festival in New York City, a wide range of free educational community initiatives, and a nationwide program of public art exhibitions.

    By activating public spaces, amplifying visual storytellers, and creating unique and highly innovative exhibition and programming environments, we join the cause of nurturing a new lens of representation.

    Through creative partnerships with festivals, city agencies, and other nonprofit organizations, Photoville offers visual storytellers, educators, and students financial support, mentorship, and promotional & production resources, on a range of exhibition opportunities.

    For more information about Photoville visit,

Identity At Play

 archive : 2022

Featuring: Jorge Santiago

Presented by: Photoville
  • Photoville


View Location Details Brooklyn Bridge Park – Pier 2

146 Furman Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Number 29 on the official photoville map Click to download this year's map

This location is part of Brooklyn Bridge Park
Explore other locations and exhibitions nearby

  • Monday 8:00 am - 8:00 pm
  • Tuesday 8:00 am - 8:00 pm
  • Wednesday 8:00 am - 8:00 pm
  • Thursday 8:00 am - 8:00 pm
  • Friday 8:00 am - 8:00 pm
  • Saturday 8:00 am - 8:00 pm
  • Sunday 8:00 am - 8:00 pm

This website was made possible thanks to the generous support and partnership of Photowings